(REUTERS/United States Attorney's Office)
DETROIT (Reuters) - Three fez-wearing drug dealers facing life in prison skipped out on Monday before a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against them at a Detroit courthouse, sparking a wide manhunt, authorities said.
The three, accused of operating one of the largest drug rings in Detroit-area history, had been free on bond during the trial and jury deliberations, said Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorneys office in Detroit.
The three missing drug dealers are Carlos Powell, 39; Eric Powell, 36; and Earnest Proge Jr., 38, Balaya said. All three had appeared in court on Monday morning, but failed to return for the reading of the verdict, Balaya said.
"They are believed to be on the run," Balaya said.
The case against them resulted in the seizure of more than $21 million in cash, 30 kilograms of heroin, 12 kilograms of cocaine and about 450 kilograms of marijuana. Law enforcement also seized 8 pieces of property and 10 vehicles, including a 2008 Bentley, a 2006 Ferrari and two boats.
The three men wore fez hats in court, Balaya said. The men had said they wore the fezzes as part of their membership in the Moorish Science Temple of America, according to The Detroit News.
A fourth defendant, former state Representative Kenneth Daniels, 54, had appeared in court for the verdict and was convicted of a related financial crime, Balaya said.
(Reporting by Cherie Curry in Detroit and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago, writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Chris Reese)